For many Jewish people in the mid-twentieth century, Zionism was an unquestionable tenet of what it meant to be Jewish. Seventy years later, a growing number of American Jews are instead expressing solidarity with Palestinians, questioning old allegiances to Israel. How did that transformation come about? What does it mean for the future of Judaism?
In Days of Awe, Atalia Omer examines this shift through interviews with a new generation of Jewish activists, rigorous data analysis, and fieldwork within a progressive synagogue community. She highlights people politically inspired by social justice campaigns including the Black Lives Matter movement and protests against anti-immigration policies. These activists, she shows, discover that their ethical outrage at US policies extends to Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. For these American Jews, the Jewish history of dispossession and diaspora compels a search for solidarity with liberation movements. This shift produces innovations within Jewish tradition, including multi-racial and intersectional conceptions of Jewishness and movements to reclaim prophetic Judaism. Charting the rise of such religious innovation, Omer points toward the possible futures of post-Zionist Judaism.
The state of Israel is often spoken of as a haven for the Jewish people, a place rooted in the story of a nation dispersed, wandering the earth in search of their homeland. Born in adversity but purportedly nurtured by liberal ideals, Israel has never known peace, experiencing instead a state of constant war that has divided its population along the stark and seemingly unbreachable lines of dissent around the relationship between unrestricted citizenship and Jewish identity.
By focusing on the perceptions and histories of Israel’s most marginalized stakeholders—Palestinian Israelis, Arab Jews, and non-Israeli Jews—Atalia Omer cuts to the heart of the Israeli-Arab conflict, demonstrating how these voices provide urgently needed resources for conflict analysis and peacebuilding. Navigating a complex set of arguments about ethnicity, boundaries, and peace, and offering a different approach to the renegotiation and reimagination of national identity and citizenship, Omer pushes the conversation beyond the bounds of the single narrative and toward a new and dynamic concept of justice—one that offers the prospect of building a lasting peace.